The National Security Agency knew the British government would oversee the destruction of hard drives held by the Guardian newspaper that contained information leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, though at that time the agency distanced itself from the action. That's according to emails obtained by The Associated Press through a Freedom of Information request.
The AP story notes that senior intelligence officials were given a heads-up about Britain's intent. Here's more from the AP:
" 'Good news, at least on this front,' the current NSA deputy director, Richard Ledgett, said at the end of a short, censored email to then-NSA director Gen. Keith Alexander and others. The subject of that July 19, 2013, email was: 'Guardian data being destroyed.' "
British journalists do not have a law like the First Amendment to protect them.
Reporter Rich Preston tells NPR's Newscast unit:
"When it became clear the government wasn't backing down, the [Guardian's] ... editor Alan Rusbridger ordered the drives' destruction rather than handing them over to authorities. Three of the paper's editors used angle grinders and drills to destroy the drives, closely monitored by two government officials."
"At the time, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said it would be difficult to imagine a situation in which the U.S. government would ever order an American media company to destroy its data.
In a statement to the AP, the Guardian said it was disappointed to learn "cross-Atlantic conversations were taking place at the very highest levels of government ahead of the bizarre destruction of journalistic material."